VegPacker Solves Hiring Challenges with Smartsheet
Having a workforce in the U.S. and Mexico adds a level of complexity to the tasks handled by any HR team. VegPacker solves its hiring and documentation challenges by using Smartsheet, giving itself a competitive edge.
- Consumer Goods
- Large (2000 - 9999)
- North America
"There’s no question that Smartsheet saves me 5 to 10 hours each week. We’re constantly finding new ways to use Smartsheet to free up managers and give everyone more visibility into the status of the many moving parts of our business. I’m making my company more efficient and collaborative – it’s pretty amazing."
Founder and CEO
If you enjoy the convenience of bagged salads, you can thank Steve Scaroni. For more than 25 years, he and his sons have run VegPacker, a produce harvesting company in California’s Salinas Valley and Yuma, AZ. The company expanded to central Mexico, and Scaroni was looking for ways to continue to meet the high demands that come with supplying lettuce for 20 percent of all the salads consumed in the U.S. each day.
The biggest challenges the company faces are coordinating the hiring of workers in both the U.S. and Mexico, processing H-2A immigration visas for Mexican workers, and tracking the status and availability of the 800-plus field workers. The process was complex and time consuming, and Scaroni needed a way to make it more efficient.
Highly Mobile Workforce, Huge Challenge
With over 1,000 employees dispersed between Mexico, California, and Arizona, the term “working remotely” takes on a whole new meaning for the VegPacker team. “We do have a brick and mortar offices, but our management team is always in the field,” Scaroni explains. “Because our season never really ends — it just moves from place to place, we're a very dispersed team. This is especially true during the harvesting season when we spend six months in Northern California and six months in Southwest Arizona, with a team year round in Guanajuato, Mexico. We work long, hard hours to supply lettuce to the major brands seven days a week.”
It was important for VegPacker to have real-time access to critical information. “Up until last year, we had no real resource to easily find company information – hiring documentation, truck maintenance, visa renewal deadlines, injury reports, etc. We didn’t have a centralized way to track any of it – and if the person responsible for the issue was sick or on vacation, we were screwed,” says Scaroni.
The "Go-To" Operations Solution
Scaroni discovered Smartsheet and quickly realized that it could be the tool to tie together all of VegPacker’s business operations.
“A cloud solution was exactly what we needed to knock down the communication silos in our company,” he says. “With Smartsheet, my team can track and participate in business operations from any office location, on the road, or in the fields. I’ve always been a heavy spreadsheet user, so Smartsheet’s grid interface made perfect sense.”
Helping More Legal Workers
One of the biggest benefits Smartsheet is tackling the process of obtaining H-2A visas for seasonal workers from Mexico to legally work in the U.S. Scaroni has been able to escape from this difficult process by putting Smartsheet at the heart of his operations. As a result, he’s leading the industry in processing and acquiring more work visas than any other harvest company in the Western United States.
The visa process is a complex program full of strict deadlines and requirements. “The documentation and bookkeeping required to successfully procure these H-2As visas can be a nightmare,” explains Scaroni. “You need to go through four different federal agencies within 90 days.”
With the process centralized and always available in Smartsheet, everyone in the company can log on and contribute to completing the various paperwork requirements and deadlines.
“With Smartsheet, we’ve been able to simplify a process that most other companies won’t touch because it’s so complex,” says Scaroni. “The produce harvesting industry has always been about who has access to a qualified workforce most quickly. We are able to bring more legal workers into the U.S. to work in our fields and therefore run a more successful business. Because I’m willing to go through the federal hoops and I have the technology like Smartsheet to support the process, we can continue to win the big contracts.”
Smartsheet Across the Company
It doesn’t stop there. Collaborating in Smartsheet is changing all aspects of Scaroni’s business:
Constant recruitment is vital to VegPacker’s continued success, and each piece of the recruitment process is tracked in Smartsheet, from employment application to onboarding. HR and administrative staff keep the new hire pipeline updated, so Scaroni can check in from anywhere and be confident that recruitment is buzzing.
Injury, Absence, and Incident Reports
Of the over 1,000 staff employed by VegPacker, at any given point in time there are a few who have been injured on the job or who need time off. Tracking injury status, maternity leaves and other absences in Smartsheet provides a clear record of who’s available to work when, as well as all of the steps that have been taken, including L&I claims.
Travel Document Management
Scaroni and his administrative staff travel frequently between the U.S. and Mexico, so having current travel documents is vital. Scaroni and his leadership team use Smartsheet to keep track of when documentation is set to expire and will need to be renewed. With automated alerts, VegPacker staff are reminded to renew visas and passports well before they expire.
With multiple offices and harvest fields in the U.S. and Mexico, Scaroni relies on his leadership team to keep him informed by tracking their programs in Smartsheet. “It gives me the perfect snapshot of everything my different teams are working on,” explains Scaroni.
When virtual meetings need to happen, they’re collaborative and efficient. Whether discussing harvest season or reviewing operation procedures, Scaroni and his team simply pull up their sheets and update action items in real time.
From looking for new harvest innovation and technology to replacing heavily used machinery, Scaroni and his team are always researching new products, and documenting the specifics in Smartsheet.
In addition to the mainstream, day-to-day projects VegPacker tackles, Scaroni and his team have multiple side projects that need to be attended to.
“By using Smartsheet to keep track of progress, documents and notes, even when we’re pulled away from projects we’re able to quickly re-engage and pick up right where we left off,” says Scaroni.